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Tributes have been paid to one of the founders of St Francis Hospice following her death at the age of 94.

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Joan Matthews died at her beloved hospice in Havering-atte-Bower on Monday last week.

She had been unwell in Southend Hospital since February and was transferred to Saint Francis Hospice’s inpatient unit so that she could end her life in the place she had done so much to nurture.

Joan first saw the need for better provision of care for those with a terminal illness through her work at Havering Community Health Council in the 1970s.

Having identified the need for a hospice in the area she was one of the foremost enthusiasts in raising public awareness of this need. She was also instrumental in establishing the fundraising groups across Havering and surrounding areas to generate cash needed for its development.

Joan recalled a meeting in 1977: “Peter Smith and I had a meeting at Dr Dorothy Rule’s flat in Hornchurch to talk about registering as a charity so that we could start fundraising.

“When we finished the meeting we dipped into our purses and each put a £5 note on the table. It was significant because those were the first actual funds collected.”

A total of £350,000 was raised for building work to begin in 1982.

Over the years Joan worked tirelessly to see Saint Francis Hospice grow into one of the largest hospices in the UK.

Today every year more than 3,000 people from the boroughs of Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Brentwood receive care and support from the hospice.

Voluntary services manager Gill Wendelken, who has worked at the hospice since 1984, remembers what an inspirational person Joan was.

“She captivated everyone she spoke to about the hospice, whether it was to a group or an individual, because of her determination to share the value of palliative care with us all,” Gill said.

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